Summer is, and always has been, my favourite season! I've been called a beach fiend by friends, and as a kid, I always wanted to have a pool party for my birthday, but I'm a June baby so it was never to be!
There's so much that I love about Summer – swimming in the ocean, the warmer, longer days, the availability of my favourite fruit (and living in sub-tropical Queensland it's top notch and grown locally, if not in our backyard), living in swimmers, summery dresses and thongs, and... bbqs!
Now that the busyness of Christmas is over, it's time to kick back and enjoy a few cold ones around the grill. A bbq shared with friends should be effortless and stress-free so it works well to ask your friends to bring meat for the bbq and a salad and drink to share. Generally, I expect to see at least a green salad, potato salad and a crunchy noodle salad (am-i-right?!). Don't get me wrong, I love those salads, and appreciate the time and effort that everyone puts into contributing something. But, if you get asked to bring a salad this summer season, why not try breaking away from what you're comfortable with and having a go at something different... all the while, making the most of the beautiful produce this season has to offer!
Here are four of my favourite, perfect for this summer season!
GRILLED CORN & BROWN RICE SALAD WITH MANGO, AVOCADO & FETA:
1 cup brown rice
½ green capsicum
½ red capsicum
½ yellow capsicum
½ red onion
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cobs of corn
½ bunch coriander
1 sprig of mint
Cook brown rice according to packet instructions. Once cooked set aside to cool (it's best if the rice isn't too hot when adding it to the rest of the salad).
Meanwhile, peel and deseed the mango and avocado and roughly chop. Deseed and roughly chop the capsicums and add to a mixing bowl along with the mango, avocado and sliced red onion. Zest and juice the limes and add to the bowl with the olive oil. Gently mix to combine and season to taste. Set aside.
Remove the husks from the corn cobs and grill until nicely charred. Once cooled, slice the kernels off and add to the rest of the salad along with the rice.
Remove the leaves from the coriander and mint and add to the salad. (You can chop these if you like but I prefer to leave them whole). Season to taste and place in a serving bowl or platter with the feta crumbled over the top.
Instead of brown rice, use quinoa, or penne for a pasta salad.
I love this salad as is, but for a little extra flavour, add some bacon pieces fried in garlic.
ZESTY, ZINGY SLAW:
¼ red cabbage
¼ green cabbage or wombok cabbage
3 sprigs of mint
½ bunch coriander
2 spring onions
2 tsps maple syrup
2 tsps sesame oil
2 tsps soy sauce
Thinly slice or shred the cabbages and shred or grate the carrots. Combine in a mixing bowl. Pick the leaves off the mint sprigs and chiffonade (neatly stack the leaves, roll and thinly slice!). Pick the leaves off the coriander and add mint and coriander to the cabbage and carrot. Thinly slice the spring onions and add to the rest of the salad.
Zest and then juice the lime. Combine with the remaining dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to combine. Pour dressing over salad and toss to combine. When you serve you may like to garnish with a little spring onion and the herbs, just to make it look pretty!
SUMMER SALAD WITH PEACHES & LEMON PESTO:
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 baby cos lettuce
1 handful mixed salad leaves
1 bunch asparagus
¼ cup frozen peas (or fresh if you have them!)
1 packed cup fresh basil leaves, about 2 bunches
1 clove garlic
3 tbsp pine nuts
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp finely grated parmesan cheese
Juice of lemon
First make the lemon pesto. Place the basil, roughly chopped garlic and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Zest the lemon and set aside to use for the salad. Add the oil, parmesan and lemon juice to the food processor and blend until finely chopped. Season to taste and set aside.
Dry toast the pine nuts in a fry pan over a medium heat. Make sure to keep an eye on them and move them around frequently so that they don't burn. Set aside to cool.
In a serving bowl or platter toss the baby cos lettuce leaves with the salad leaves. Chop asparagus into 5cm pieces. Trim ends of zucchini, cut in half and then slice into ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Destone and slice the peach. Cook peas according to packet instructions. Add asparagus, zucchini, peach and peas to the serving bowl.
Drizzle salad with lemon pesto and serve extra pesto on the side.
I love having leftover pesto to keep in the fridge, and not just for pasta! It's delicious on toasted sourdough with avocado, tomato, corn and poached eggs.
ROASTED BEETROOT, MAPLE WALNUTS & GOAT CHEESE SALAD:
2 small beetroots (or 1 large beetroot)
Drizzle of olive oil
½ cup walnuts
2–3 sprigs thyme
2 tsps maple syrup
2–3 handfuls of mixed salad leaves (e.g. baby spinach, rocket, endive, beetroot leaves)
¼ of a red onion, sliced
1 tbsp goat cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 220°C (200°C fan-force). Peel and cut beetroot into bite-size chunks. Lay a piece of aluminium foil big enough to encase the beetroot pieces on the bench. Place beetroot pieces in the middle of the foil, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bring the foil up on all sides and together on top to encase the beetroot in a little aluminium foil parcel. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes or until the beetroot is cooked through (you should be able to insert a knife easily, without resistance). Once cooked, remove from the oven and set aside until needed.
While beetroot is cooking, line a small baking tin with baking paper. Break up walnuts into smaller pieces and place on the baking paper along with the maple syrup. Remove leaves from sprigs of thyme and add to walnuts with a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix to combine and spread evenly over baking tin. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, stirring at 5 minutes. Keep an eye on the walnuts to make sure that the maple syrup doesn't burn. Remove from the oven and stir to ensure maple syrup covers the walnuts evenly, allow to cool.
For the dressing, place ingredients in a small jar and season with salt and pepper. Shake to combine.
To assemble the salad, place the salad leaves on a platter, scatter the beetroot, red onion and walnuts over the top. Crumble (or tear) goats cheese and scatter over salad. Drizzle with salad dressing.
If you're stretched for time, you can use store-bought beetroot in a jar – just make sure you buy the whole beetroot, not sliced. It just won't have the delicious earthy, sweet flavour of roasted beetroot.
But wait! ... there's still more...
COCNUT & MANGO SOBA NOODLE SALAD:
I made this salad for the first time this week and it was delicious. Definitely going to keep this one on hand! My only suggestion is that you make half the quantity of dressing. You can find the recipe here: